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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 12:19AM #11
AlexScott
Posts: 34
This is one of those questions where the only true answer is probably "All of the above."  I've mulled on this quite a few times, and have found some interesting value in these ancient commandments.

You have basic morality, as in the Noahide law.  You have laws designed to set your people apart from the rest of the world, as in most, if not all, of the Torah.  I personally believe that some of the purity laws in Leviticus were originally meant as a way of sustaining public health, and the commandments dealing with armed combat are best treated as metaphors for an internal struggle, whether in the soul or the society.

Some rules have a much more practical purpose, as in Buddhism, where everything you do is supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment--not because it conjures the right divine juju, but because it conjures the right state of mind.  Similar rules exist in Christianity, for much the same purpose, as in the Cloud of Unknowing.

Which brings me to one important aspect of these rules, and what I believe to be their most important purpose, which is their potential to help us transcend ourselves and our ordinary morality. 

We transcend ourselves by interacting with God and with others in interacting with God.  I honestly feel this is the ultimate purpose of liturgy: to help us forget ourselves as individuals and make us part of that greater whole we call the Body of Christ--just as in Judaism, following the Mitzvaot makes you not just an individual, but a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; or in Buddhism, your practices help you forget your false self and its desires and become one with Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Then there's morality.  Most people can get by on simple morality.  But religion--ah, that makes morality a challenge!  It's one thing to not murder, steal, or commit adultery, but to not even covet?  It's one thing to show decency to my fellow man, but to regulate even the way I eat?  It's one thing to love my neighbor, but my enemy?   Who ever heard of such a thing!

My thoughts on this are fragmentary at best, but there you go.  I think as long as people are looking for some form of transcendance in their lives, these rules will remain relevant in some way--not as rigid, absolute rules, but as a structure in which to roam and explore.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 1:42AM #12
Merope
Posts: 9,768
[QUOTE=journeying;73797]The Bible says that Jesus said the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  Are "rules" created for man's benefit as in keeping the Hebrew identity alive?  If that was the purpose of Leviticus, is it applicable today?  Is it applicable to non-Jews?  If a rule harms someone, should it be kept?[/QUOTE]

[COLOR="Navy"]I think religious rules are created for and by humans to order our lives based on our collective encounter - or encounters, perhaps depending on the religion or the faith tradition - with God.  I think this ties back into artemis' point.

In terms of whether a rule that harms someone should be kept, I guess I think that it is up to the collective to weigh the harms and benefits of a given rule and decide which harms, if any, are an acceptable trade-off for the benefits, if any, of the rule.[/COLOR]
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 2:14AM #13
Merope
Posts: 9,768
[COLOR="Navy"]In terms of the holiness code in Leviticus 17-26, my EFM materials observe that the code is meant to make Israel "radically distinct (holy)" from the Canaanites.  The authors of the materials take the position that this emphasis on distinction marks the holiness code as dating from a time in which Yahwism was being "corrupted" (EFM's term) - perhaps "infiltrated" is a better word - by Canaanite influences.

The materials note that "holiness" does not necessarily mean moral uprightness or piety - although these characteristics flow from being holy to Yahweh.  Rather, holiness means being set apart from the rest of the world.  The materials observe that much of the proscribed sexual practices identified in the holiness code, for example, are forbidden not because they are harmful to society or because they are "unnatural acts."  These are not the issues, according to the materials.  Rather, the command in Leviticus 18:24-25 is, "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves [emphasis added]."  So it's the separateness thing again:  These things are proscribed because other cultures do them.

All that said, and I respect the materials, my sense is that there were nonetheless good, empirical, culture-based reasons why, in that society at that time and place, such things as incest or sex with animals were found or determined to be detrimental one way or another to the well-being and continuation of that society.  Adultery, for example, is typically dicey in any society - especially small societies - because when children are the result, this  tends to interfere with the orderly distribution of inherited property in society.  [/COLOR]
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 11:05AM #14
Dutch777
Posts: 9,116
[QUOTE=artemis01;74582]AH, thanks.  Never heard that one before.

(That's not a good color on you, BTW, Dutch.....:D)[/QUOTE]

Artemis:
Yes, you're right.  That anemic orange is totally cheesy.
The Path
To Moon Lake
Doesn't Go
There.

So Walk
Your own Dharma*Path
And Be
Mindful

Dutch
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 11:20AM #15
Dutch777
Posts: 9,116
Thoughtful posts indeed from Merope and Alex.   There are different laws in the OT fulfilling different purposes; same in the NT.   One question in Judaism is whether the Laws of Holiness, the Levitical Codes apply to all Jews or only to the priestly class.

Levitical Laws do separate the observant Jew from non-Jews; in fact the term Pharasee derives from "Parushim" = "those who are separated".   In all cultures, table fellowship is basic to relationships; middle eastern table hospitalisty is proverbial.   Kashrut makes table fellowship virtually impossible with Goyim; it advances physical and relational separation.    The decision of the Council of Jerusalem, Acts 15, in effect:
-  Recognize Paul's following as God-Fearers rather than "real, honest-to-goodness Jews".
-  Makes basic table fellowship and some degree of relationship possible with Pauls following per the imposition of the Noachide Codes, which per se, recognizes the non-Jewish status of these people.

As an aside, J.D. Crossan surmises that Paul's locus of evangelism was primarily amongs the God Fearers who attended synagogue and followed Jewish moral law.

Some of the Levitical Laws do inculcate good sanitation  e.g. isolation of those with Hanson's Ds. or any visible form of dermatosis.   Other laws depart from any sanitation rationale e.g. the removal of the sciatic nerve and exanguination of meat prior to ingestion.
The Path
To Moon Lake
Doesn't Go
There.

So Walk
Your own Dharma*Path
And Be
Mindful

Dutch
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 17, 2007 - 6:27PM #16
RJMcElwain
Posts: 2,955
[QUOTE=AlexScott;75288]This is one of those questions where the only true answer is probably "All of the above."  I've mulled on this quite a few times, and have found some interesting value in these ancient commandments.

You have basic morality, as in the Noahide law.  You have laws designed to set your people apart from the rest of the world, as in most, if not all, of the Torah.  I personally believe that some of the purity laws in Leviticus were originally meant as a way of sustaining public health, and the commandments dealing with armed combat are best treated as metaphors for an internal struggle, whether in the soul or the society.

Some rules have a much more practical purpose, as in Buddhism, where everything you do is supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment--not because it conjures the right divine juju, but because it conjures the right state of mind.  Similar rules exist in Christianity, for much the same purpose, as in the Cloud of Unknowing.

Which brings me to one important aspect of these rules, and what I believe to be their most important purpose, which is their potential to help us transcend ourselves and our ordinary morality. 

We transcend ourselves by interacting with God and with others in interacting with God.  I honestly feel this is the ultimate purpose of liturgy: to help us forget ourselves as individuals and make us part of that greater whole we call the Body of Christ--just as in Judaism, following the Mitzvaot makes you not just an individual, but a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; or in Buddhism, your practices help you forget your false self and its desires and become one with Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Then there's morality.  Most people can get by on simple morality.  But religion--ah, that makes morality a challenge!  It's one thing to not murder, steal, or commit adultery, but to not even covet?  It's one thing to show decency to my fellow man, but to regulate even the way I eat?  It's one thing to love my neighbor, but my enemy?   Who ever heard of such a thing!

My thoughts on this are fragmentary at best, but there you go.  I think as long as people are looking for some form of transcendance in their lives, these rules will remain relevant in some way--not as rigid, absolute rules, but as a structure in which to roam and explore.[/QUOTE]

Alex,

Good thoughts. I struggle with the same conundrums, constantly.

Bob

Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 18, 2007 - 2:03PM #17
brjohnbc
Posts: 658
Alex - "I think as long as people are looking for some form of transcendance in their lives, these rules will remain relevant in some way--not as rigid, absolute rules, but as a structure in which to roam and explore."

Thank you for your words.

Blessings
Bro. John
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